Late last week OCLC pulled an absolute blinder and released millions of records in WorldCat under an open license as linked data! Its a great step in the evolution of library data publishing, building upon past efforts. Here are three reasons why this is much more just another release of bib data.
1) – The technology - OCLC have adopted and extended the Schema.org mechanisms I experimented with last year on the Cambridge LibrarySearch catalogue. Nested within these tags are a pragmatic selection of vocabularies, so the data can be consumed on different levels for different uses cases. Search engines would just see ‘about’ and description, whilst other applications crawling the data might see library of congress name as a subject entries and DC:description fields. Nice work. They’ve also provided a human readable version of exactly what is exposed. With the weight and expertise of OCLC behind it, the library community can engage with Google, Yahoo and others behind Schema.org and help create a better microdata format for the web. Possibly.
The Library of Congress are currently engaged in a very literal sounding Marc21 to RDF modeling exercise. I hope it can easily play nice with this pragmatic implementation.
2) The License - OCLC have released the data under an ODC-By attribution license. Nice one guys. Back in 2008 OCLC were putting up a lot of barriers to re-use of library data. It took time, but this is a great example of a large organisation listening to the needs of its constituents and changing tack.
3) The approach - OCLC consider this the beginning, not the end of their attempts and will adapt it over time based on feedback. This helps reaffirm their agenda as an organization with research at its core. It also explains why they are not releasing any full dumps of data for now. This may makes sense. Colleagues at the British Library who have released multiple versions of the British National Bibliography have commented on the problems involved in supporting older versions of a dataset.
OCLC Technology Evangelist Richard Wallis will be hopefully speaking about this at the upcoming MashCat event in Cambridge.